Foodie Pen Pal Reveal Day

So, two months ago, while surfing the blogosphere I stumbled upon this phenom called “Foodie Pen Pal”. This great gal, Lindsay at the Lean Green Bean, pairs up bloggers and readers every month. It’s like a pen pal, but with great little food finds. On the 5th of each month, Lindsay sends out the match list. You get two matches: one to which you’ll send a package and one from which you’ll receive a package (hopefully!).

After a disappointing first experience (never received a package), I gave it a second chance. So glad I did! This month, I wound up with two great ladies as my pen pals.

I sent my package to Marilyn from the great state of New York. You can check out her blog and package here. In her email, she indicated she loved cinnamon and nutmeg so I went with that as a theme.

I received my package from the wonderful Dawn from Alaska. Proving it’s a small world, Dawn’s mom lives in Abita Springs, Louisiana and we emailed back and forth the day after I blogged about Abita. She sent me some fantastic items: homemade cab jelly (saving for a party to serve over cream cheese per Dawn’s recommendation), granola, spicy chocolate, a couple of flavors of Justin’s nut butter and my absolute favorite thing: homemade coconut macaroons. She dipped the bottom in chocolate then drizzled with a blueberry sauce. I was sad when these were gone…luckily, she has the recipe on her blog.  Thanks again Dawn, it was great.

I plan to participate one more month, because I love shopping for new little things to share with others. If you’re interested, please visit the link above for Foodie Pen Pals.  But for now, I’ll leave you with some pictures of my items. (note, some are upside down, but i can’t figure out how to rotate)

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Squash, Squash, Squash…Everybody!

[Note, the title is supposed to be to the tune of that LMFAO song]

I love vegetables. There’s not a veggie I’ve tried that I don’t like… And I mean pure veggies, not coated in butter or sauce. Nothing beats a lightly steamed veggie with just a little S&P. Lima Beans? YUM! alfalfa Sprouts? More, Please! Brussels Sprouts ?  Double YUM!!

Despite my love of veggies, I’ve never really been exposed to different types of squash…The shapes kind of freaked me out and I just didn’t know how to cook them. The past few weeks I’ve gotten a variety of squash and it forced me to learn how to use them.

One of the last CSA boxes until late September: Includes lots of grape tomatoes, a huge spaghetti squash and a big juicy watermelon.

Butternut Squash

There were so many options, but I decided to make some “fries”. I peeled the butternut squash then diced as I would a potato. These were delicious kind of similar to a sweet potato fry, but with even more flavor. I ate these with some boiled fresh CSA corn (fresh corn doesn’t even need butter or S&P because it’s so sweet and juicy) and garlic rotisserie chicken  from Pronto’s.

Spaghetti Squash

I know a lot of people trying to lose weight have a thing for spaghetti squash, but I had never tried it. I cut in half then microwaved each half for about 10 mins until I was able to scrape the squash easily.  It took much longer than I read online, but that might be because I have a really cheap and dinky microwave. It looks like spaghetti and if you’re a volume eater like me, this will be really filling and low cal. I made some turkey meatballs with some shredded zucchini and added my favorite Mario batali sauce. Then I added a little freshly grated parm cheese and crushed red peppers for extra flavor — spaghetti squash is really bland.

Spaghetti Squash & Meatballs

Cutting squash is very hard. Make sure you have a really sharp knife. It’s a kin to carving a pumpkin. Likewise, you can use other parts of the squash for a snack. I roasted the seeds of the butternut squash like I would pumpkin seeds. I gave them a quick rinse, patted dry then placed on a baking sheet. I didn’t add any oil just stuck them in the over for about 5-7 mins. Once I took them out, I added a little bit of salt.  Since the butternut squash seeds are a little bit smaller than that of a pumpkin, they get a little more crispy. I really enjoyed these. The seeds of the spaghetti squash look just like pumpkin seeds, but I didn’t roast them because I was lazy.

A Lot of Work for a Little Snack

A New Take On Chili

In Texas, we love our chili.

After the first chill in the air, everyone breaks out the giant chili pots. It also brings back that great debate: beans vs. no beans.  Personally, I’m a little in different.

I know it’s not even remotely cold outside, but I decided to make chili this weekend. But instead of those traditional Texas flavors, I decided to put an italian twist on it. Plus, I was trying to use up ingredients I had on hand.

Megan’s Italian Style Chili

1 lb Ground Spicy Italian Sausage (If in links, squeeze out of casing but they do sell just the ground meat)

1 lb Ground Turkey (I used turkey, but beef is ok)

1 Jar, Mario Batali Arrabiata Sauce

1 28 oz Can Cento San Marzano tomatoes

2 Oz or 1 Serving Angel Hair Pasta

1/2 Large Onion, Diced

1 Green Bell Pepper, Diced

Handful Baby Carrots, Thinly Sliced or Shredded

2 Handfuls Cremini Mushrooms, Sliced (Thick, so they don’t over cook)

To Taste:

Red Pepper Flakes

Italian Seasoning

Parsley

Garlic

Salt & Pepper

Fresh Parmesan Cheese

(1) In a skillet, brown the italian sausage. It’s okay if it’s not completely cooked. It will continue to cook in the chili. In a 5 qt pot(I used my Staub croquette), brown onion. Add sausage, mushroom, tomatoes, carrots  and peppers to the pot over low heat.

(2) Brown turkey or beef in same skillet as the italian sausage. This will flavor the turkey with the leftover seasoning from the sausage. Add to pot with sauce. Add seasoning to taste, but remember the flavor will become more intense as it simmers. Break up pasta into at least 1/4’s. This will make it feel like you’re getting a big bowl of pasta, but you’ll be filling up on the meat and veggies rather than the pasta. Allow chili to simmer for at least an hour before serving.  Add fresh parmesan when serving.

Note: This made an obscene amount of chili. If you aren’t feeding a big crowd, I’d halve it or freeze it. I kind of made it up as I went a long and was shocked at how much it made. Plus, it’s very filling.

Here’s a tip: I don’t like that cheese in a green can nor the pregrated parmesan in a tub. Instead, I buy a nice wedge and keep it in the freezer wrapped in plastic wrap and then inside a freezer bag. The convenience of the cheaper stuff and the taste of the good stuff. Actually, I keep all my cheese in the freezer to keep myself from eating the whole thing. I have a problem. That’s why it’s fat girl with a little blog, not little girl with a fat blog 🙂

 

I am loving this sauce from Mario Batali. The ingredients include: San Marzano Imported Italian Plum Tomatoes from Sarnese-Nocerino area in Italy, Fresh Onions, Fresh Carrots, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Capers, Fresh Garlic, Sea Salt, Crushed Red Pepper. That’s it. At $8 a jar, it’s pretty pricey but I’m willing to spend more for the quality. It doesn’t have a bunch of fillers. I’ve also tried the marinara, but I think this is my favorite of the two. There’s also an Alla Vodka sauce I’d love to try. ( I wasn’t paid for this or even given free sauce, but if anyone wants to send me some Mario Batali Sauces for free I’d gladly accept 🙂 )

 

 

 

But I like it, I love it, I want some more of it…

This weekend, I had and ole friend come in town. We went bridesmaids dress shopping , visited a cool cake supply store [I bought some USA theme cupcake supplies that I hope to use before the olympics are over], and visited this giant knock off store. It kind of reminded my of the huge knock off stores in China, where I’m sure most of these goods are from there.  We went to Sam Moon because my friend is making a cool bouquet and wanted to load up on some supplies there. I don’t want to give away her details, so you’ll have to wait until next April. It’s going to be fantastic. I can’t show you what Laura got, but I can show you some of the cheap stuff I bought for my rodeo gear.

Rhinestones, “Leather” & Turquoise. #gonecountry #Texas

After our morning adventures, we headed to Reliant Center to check out the “Brothers of the Sun”: Tim McGraw & Kenny Chesney. It was a fantastic show, but really long. We got there around 4:30 just in time to see Jake Owen, but didn’t leave until after 11PM. We got our money’s worth, for sure. Walking into the show, my shoe broke…so long “gold balls”. It made me walk funny and my leg is still sore from it.

I like it, I love it, I want more Tim McGraw.

 

 

The One Without Fried Okra

I love fried okra. It reminds me of being a kid @ Luby’s. My mom would get these little fried pieces of green stuff and I just thought it was so gross. One day, I tried it and I fell in love. From the salty and crispy outside to the juicy inside, I can’t get enough. When I lived in DC, few places had fried okra. Except this TOTAL dive bar on Capital Hill called the Tune Inn. Many a good time were had there over grilled cheese and fried okra. A few years after I move back (which, I can’t believe i’ve been gone for 5 years, mind blowing how fast time flies), it was featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives:

This video takes me back. I heard if burned down a few years ago, but that they were going to rebuild. If you find yourself in DC, itching for some fried okra definitely check this place out.

This past week, I had a bunch of okra in my CSA box. It had me totally stumped. Other than gumbo and fried, how do you eat okra?

The answer: Roasted!

I washed the okra and patted it dry then i sliced it into more uniform sizes.

Tossed it on a cookie sheet and sprayed with a little olive oil. Then I added my favorite cajun seasoning blend: Tony’s. Put it in the oven at 400 for about 7 mins until crisp.

I served it as a side with my italian chili. It had that salty & crispy texture (plus a little heat from the seasoning) that I like so much about fried okra, but  without the grease and regret.